Monday, February 7, 2011

'We have a great transactional relationship...'

I've a piece in today's Canberra Times, 'It's a juggle, but parents can love in the struggle'.

I'm shedding light on the so-called 'transactional relationship', and suggesting how it can be avoided.  A sample:
At a café with my toddler son, I overhead one of the most disturbing phrases: ‘transactional relationship’. “We have a great transactional relationship,” said a young mother, about her husband. “‘Pass the pepper,’ and that sort of thing.”
I immediately knew what she meant, and every parent juggling work, kids and occasional sanity does too. It’s rushed showers, snatched half-conversations, frantic cleaning, harried cooking. But most of all it’s about function: two people, reduced to their professional and domestic roles. It’s when marriage looks more like a board meeting than a loving union. 
There are good reasons for this. Most obviously, there’s lots to do, and only so much time and energy. It makes sense to specialise: dad does paid work and home repairs, mum does kid-wrangling and household labour, or vice versa. After every chore’s done, there’s little left over for moonlight tete-a-tetes, candlelit deep-and-meaningfuls. We do our jobs. 
And because we commit to our roles, it’s easy to grow apart. Whether we’re homemaking or in the office, our daily lives can be strikingly different. Deadlines and photocopier squabbles can be abstract next to rancid nappies and café tantrums. Pegging out loads of washing, or servicing piles of filthy washing-up, can look simple beside budget meetings or high-stakes conference calls. The transactional relationship arises because we’re in separate roles, separate worlds.
(Photo: German Federal Archive)

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